ABC's 'Modern Family' fights for No. 1

CBS is still the network juggernaut in the early going this season, but the growth for ABC comedy “Modern Family” is an equally big story.

In the same week studio Twentieth Century Fox TV was celebrating the sophomore sitcom’s megabucks off-net sale, “Family” emerged as TV’s No. 1 entertainment series in young adults for the first time.

While there are other shows putting up similar 18-49 numbers (“Glee,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Big Bang Theory”) that could move ahead in any given week, the trend line is impressive for “Modern Family.” Show, which bowed as the No. 7-rated half-hour in premiere week 2009 and finished fourth for the season, seems to have capitalized on its buzz, critical acclaim and Emmy victory. It premiered last month as TV’s top-rated sitcom in 18-49, and last week topped Fox’s “Glee” as the No. 1 scripted show of any kind.

It has also moved up the ladder among ABC shows in overall audience, with its 11.45 million viewers ranking it behind only vets “Dancing With the Stars,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” And it has proven to be one of the biggest gainers in DVR playback.

Meanwhile, the season got off to an even bigger bang last week for CBS, which has now opened fall with four straight victories in key demos, for the first time in 23 years.

The Eye, with its hits spread across five nights and encompassing comedy, drama and reality, continues to dominate the top 25 program rankings in adults 18-49, accounting for 12 shows on the list — more than ABC (6), Fox (3) and NBC (2) combined. It also claimed the top three new shows in the demo in “Mike and Molly,” “Bleep My Dad Says” and “Hawaii Five-0.”

Last week figured to go to a sports-aided Fox in the 18-49 column, but the net came up about 100,000 viewers short of CBS as Fox’s blockbuster Sunday late-afternoon NFL game (Dallas-Minnesota) extended only briefly into primetime. And ratings for Fox’s postseason baseball action on the weekend — while solid — were lower than they could have been if the net’s spat with Cablevision hadn’t kept the games off the screens of millions of homes in the New York area.

Overall for the Oct. 11-17 frame, CBS averaged a 2.7 rating/8 share in adults 18-49, followed closely by Fox (2.6/8), NBC (2.5/7) and NBC (2.4/7), with Univision and ESPN tied for fifth (1.5/5). The Eye had it as well in adults 25-54 (3.6/9 to 3.0/8 for ABC) and total viewers (11.1 million to 8.8 million for ABC).

Leading the way for CBS were vets “Two and a Half Men” (4.5/11 in 18-49, 13.47m), “The Big Bang Theory” (4.3/14, 12.56m), “NCIS” (3.9/11, 19.20m) and “Survivor” (3.8/11, 12.32m), while newcomers “Mike and Molly” (3.5/9, 10.72m) and “Bleep My Dad Says” (3.2/9, 10.16m) also made the top 25, and “Hawaii Five-0″ just missed the cut (3.1/8, 10.70m).

The Eye also had to be pleased about the perf of Wednesday rookie “The Defenders” (2.5/7, 9.90m), which grew week to week and won its 10 p.m. hour for the first time; the net actually topped its broadcast rivals in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour on every weeknight last week.

At Fox, “Glee” (4.7/13 in 18-49, 11.36m) continues to perform well above last year’s rookie-season pace, ranking second among entertainment series in adults 18-49. The musical-comedy remains the top-rated program in Nielsen’s C3 ratings through the first two weeks of the season with a 5.1 average rating in 18-49.

Net also saw rising scores for Wednesday’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (3.4/9, 7.36m), which celebrated its 100th episode, and Thursday’s “Bones” (2.6/8, 9.58m) and “Fringe” (2.0/5, 5.22m), which both edged up.

On Sunday, Fox benefited from only 10 overrun minutes from the later-afternoon NFL game (which drew about 29 million viewers during that time). And following a lengthy football postgame show, Game 2 of baseball’s NLCS drew a 2.7/7 in 18-49 and 8.84 million viewers overall — less than half of NBC’s competing “Sunday Night Football” (7.4/19, 19.12m for Indianapolis-Washington), which was once again the No. 1 show of the week in 18-49.

Besides football, NBC was repped in the week’s top 25 by Thursday comedies “The Office” (3.8/10, 7.36m) and “30 Rock” (3.1/9, 6.70m), with the latter hitting a two-year slot high with its live episode.

Among new shows, “Undercovers” and “Chase” each settled for just a 4 share in 18-49, and the Friday premiere of “School Pride” fared even worse (0.9/3, 2.90m) — although by that night’s low-bar standards, it was actually competitive.

In its third week, Wednesday’s “Law and Order: Los Angeles” (1.9/6, 7.26m) declined 21% week to week and 41% from its premiere. The drama, renewed for 13 more episodes last week, continues to lag behind the average of the net’s most recent stab at an L.A. crime series, last year’s “Southland,” which aired only six times on the network due to low ratings.

ABC was led by Wednesday’s “Modern Family” (4.8/13, 11.45m), while its “Cougar Town” lead-out (3.2/9, 7.23m) had one of its best scores in a while.

As for new series, “No Ordinary Family” declined some more (2.3/6, 7.72m), but still outperformed other ABC rookies “Better With You” (2.1/6, 6.38m) and “Detroit 1-8-7″ (1.7/5, 6.98m).

Notable at CW was the Friday tandem of “Smallville” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 3.19m) and “Supernatural” (1.2/4, 2.84m), with the former’s 200th episode drawing the net’s largest aud in the 8 p.m. hour in more than two years. For the night, CW beat ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox among adults 18-34 (1.3/5).

ESPN had a big week with football, as “Monday Night Football” (7.1/19 in 18-49, 17.31m for Minnesota Vikings-New York Jets) dominated that night, and the cabler’s college football game between Wisconsin and Ohio State (2.5/9 in 18-49, 7.27m) won a sports-heavy Saturday over Fox’s competing National League Championship Series opener between Philadelphia and San Francisco (2.1/7, 7.13m) and ABC’s NASCAR race from Charlotte (1.5/5, 5.35m).

TBS moved up to second in most cable categories, getting a nice boost from Game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers (2.7/10, 8.11m) — the most-watched LCS opener to date on cable.

Also of note in cable, MTV’s “Teen Mom” ended its season with huge numbers Tuesday (3.2/9, 5.55m), with its 7.3/20 in women 18-34 topping even the score of “Glee” on the night; “Mad Men” ended its season Sunday (0.8/2 in 18-49, 2.44m), slightly ahead of its year-ago finale; Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” drew 6.70 million viewers for its new episode on Monday; movie “Scooby Doo: Curse of the Lake Monster” drew 5.13 million on Cartoon Network ; and Fox News surged to 7.1 million viewers in the 8 o’clock hour on Tuesday for coverage of the Chilean miners rescue.

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